Award Winning Blog

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Missing the Burning Forest for the Trees-Verizon Throttles California Fire Fighters at the Worst Possible Time, But Few Get the Lesson

            Verizon’s so-called customer care staff made a grievous mistake when they ignored pleas to override automated software that throttled California fire fighters’ broadband connections.  See  Understandably, network neutrality advocates jumped at the opportunity to provide another example of unintended bad consequences from the abandonment of open Internet regulatory safeguards.  Similarly, network neutrality opponents properly chided the company, but again championed a mostly unregulated Internet subject to the consumer protections available from the Federal Trade Commission.

            Both sides miss the main lesson from this unfortunate situation: broadband networks have become such important infrastructure that it makes absolutely no sense now to suggest that industry self-regulation will remedy anything and everything, except for the occasional privacy and data security issues which the FTC can handle.

            Broadband networks, particularly first and last mile access, are essential to effective firefighting as it is for so many other areas of commerce, self-fulfillment, democracy, governance, etc.  Common carriage status would recognize this importance.  Bear in mind that such a legal status does not require ventures to operate as monopolies, to have market power, or to operate essential facilities.  Landlords, hotel owners, competitive airlines and even wireless carriers, currently operate as common carriers.  Do not for a second buy the bogus assertion that such status disincentivizes investment and blunts profitability.  Also, no one can credibly claim that common carrier oversight is “legacy” “utility” regulation, unjustified in this currently competitive environment. Landlords, hotel owners, bus lines, car rental companies, airlines, cable television systems, wireless carriers and a host of other ventures currently comply with nondiscrimination and other common carrier requirements.

            On the other hand, even common carriers can engage in price discrimination.  Verizon most certainly did not violate common carriage law and policy, or the FCC’s 2015 network neutrality rules, by offering different tiers of service (bit rate, allowable monthly data consumption) at different price points.

            That Verizon could have dithered for even one hour on the matter of waiving data rates for fight fighters provides a clear example that too much is at stake to rely solely on the level of common sense and good business judgment of first responding customer service representatives.  The FCC and the California Public Service Commission should have had jurisdiction and the will to act immediately. 

            Who can dispute this outcome?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Publications Announcement

You might have an interest in the following new publications of mine:

Freedom to Discriminate: Assessing the Lawfulness and Utility of Biased Broadband Networks in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law and

The Internet of Platforms and Two-Sided Markets: Implications for Competition and Consumers in the Villanova Law Review.

I try to simplify complex topics and you can ignore the footnotes!